Laois Connects: Helping sports clubs find ways to handle a criticial mental health incident

Laois Connects: Helping sports clubs find ways to handle a criticial mental health incident

Every individual, club, organisation and group can play their part in promoting positive mental health and contributing to suicide prevention.

This involves having an awareness of the importance of a good level of mental health, how to maintain it and how to cope with the stresses and challenges of everyday life. It also involves having the knowledge and confidence to be in a position to talk to others whom we may be concerned about and supporting them to connect in with relevant services for additional assistance.

The HSE supported by Laois Sports Partnership recognise that Sporting Clubs are at the heart of every community and are integral to the support and development of individuals within their communities. With a view to enhancing this valuable asset, the Resource Service for Suicide Prevention has been working with GAA, soccer and rugby clubs in Laois over the past number of years with a view to supporting them to to identify and respond to the health and well being needs of its members.

The ‘Sport Your Mind’ programme has been delivered to 9 Sporting Clubs including Camross, Rosenallis, Ballylinan, Portlaoise, O’Dempsey’s and Timahoe GAA Clubs, Portlaoise and Arlington Football Clubs, Portarlington Rugby Club and Arlington Soccer Club. Within the various Clubs, Coaches, Mentors, Parents and Players who participated gained knowledge and foundational information on youth mental health, the indicators of early warning signs of mental health difficulties and the range of support services that are available for young people who may be in need of additional support.

The Programme also includes the provision of Youth Support Cards, a Multi-Media Video Clip for young people advising key messages underpinning positive mental health and an ‘Improve Your Mood With Food’ Diet Sheet created by HSE Senior Community Dieticians.

Increasing the capacity of individuals, communities and Clubs to be in a position to respond in times of crises is also very fundamental and important and many Clubs have availed of the SafeTALK (suicide alertness) programme.

This is an internationally recognised workshop that prepares participants to recognise when people may be having thoughts of suicide and to be in a position to provide initial support and onward connection to other appropriate supports and resources. Many of the GAA, Rugby and Soccer Clubs have also availed of this training and are now in a position to be able to give safeguarding support to their members when difficulties may arise.

Whilst it is recognised that Clubs provide phenomenal support to its members and communities through good times and bad, unfortunately, certain events or situations may occur, which due to their severity or complexity, can overwhelm a Clubs natural capacity to respond. These are often referred to as critical incidents.

With a view to helping and supporting Clubs to be in a position to respond appropriately and adequately, Laois Sports Partnership and the HSE are now working with Clubs to put in place ‘Responding to Critical Incident’ Plans. Clubs are being encouraged to engage, communicate and plan their own Response Plan so that should an incident occur they will be better equipped to respond and take the appropriate steps in a calm, safe, efficient, effective and supportive manner.

11 Clubs are currently working with Caroline Myers, Co-Ordinator of Laois Sports Partnership, and Josephine Rigney, HSE Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention Laois/Offaly, to compile their Critical Response Plans and they will be launched together with Laois GAA County Plan at a special ‘Coping with a Critical Incident’ event in the Heritage Hotel on Monday 10th October at 8pm.

Liam O’Neill (Special Guest) will MC the evening and Colin Regan, GAA’s Community & Health Officer, will present on the processes of an appropriate and effective response and the benefits and resilience it can provide to a Club, their Members and the wider community.

The Event is open to all to attend and it is hoped that other Clubs will attend and avail of the opportunity to learn more about being in a position to respond in the event of a critical incident and will be encouraged by the help and support that is available to them in their endeavours.